IBM's Supercomputer Whips Up Own BBQ Sauce

Watson's creation is delicious, humans say

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 2, 2014 12:54 AM CDT | Updated Jul 2, 2014 1:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – What does a machine with no mouth, no taste buds, and no interest in consuming ribs know about barbecue sauce? Everything, according to IBM. The company says its Watson supercomputer has analyzed huge numbers of recipes and used its "cognitive cooking" abilities to create a delicious BBQ sauce, NPR reports. For the supercomputer to cook, a database of recipes is added, and then "we remix them, substitute things, do all kinds of other modifications and generate millions of new ideas for recipes," an IBM research scientist explains. To pick the best ones, "we try to predict what humans will find flavorful, based on some basic ideas from chemistry and psychology."

Watson's Bengali Butternut BBQ Sauce was only bottled for a limited run, but the recipe is online here. IBM says it includes "squash, Thai chilies, tamarind, and a dozen more ingredients that have never before been slathered together on a chicken wing." So what does the "computerized condiment" taste like? Mark Wilson at Fast Company tried it out and, like other reviewers, he says it is delicious. "The best way I can describe it is as a Thai mustard sauce, or maybe the middle point between a BBQ sauce and a curry," he writes. "Does that sound gross? I assure you that it isn't." (When not creating sauces, Watson's other ventures have included crushing human contestants on Jeopardy and dispensing medical advice.)

A prop representing Watson is seen with vanquished human opponents during a Jeopardy practice round.
A prop representing Watson is seen with vanquished human opponents during a Jeopardy practice round.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
IBM's supercomputer Watson is no slouch in the kitchen, the company says.
IBM's supercomputer Watson is no slouch in the kitchen, the company says.   (AP Photo/IBM, File)
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